Following the significant impacts to the business and finance sector caused by Hurricane Irma, a press release was issued last week confirming that the Commercial Division of the BVI High Court has moved to St Lucia. This is a temporary measure and they will begin hearing matters on 25 September 2017.
Since the hurricane the team at BVI Finance have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we have a full understanding of all the processes that are in place to support the effective running of the BVI Commercial Court.
A meeting will be held at Ogiers offices at Ritter House on Thursday 21 September from 12-2pm. During the meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask any questions relating to the BVI Courts. An agenda will be issued shortly along with dial in details.
Please note the following in relation to the BVI Commercial Court:
- Electronic filings ONLY will be accepted, no physical filings (please copy in Noni Georges)
- Court searches will be done electronically and BVI Courts will have staff in St Lucia to perform these tasks. It is expected that these will be available from Thursday subject to access to their server and due to the impact of Hurricane Maria.
- Hearings allocated from 25 September will continue on the date agreed, all of this week (18 September) hearings are being reviewed and prioritized accordingly.
- To support this prioritization process the registry will issue to all firms a request for a status update on each case. Firms will be asked to respond within 7 days so no further time is lost. This will only apply to those that have a hearing listed up to December (i.e. this term). We are asking that firms work together where appropriate on particular cases to ensure timeliness.
- Hearings will be done via phone or video conference for the time being. Where live evidence is required to be presented, or as the Court instructs, hearings will be physically conducted in St Lucia. Firms can use the BVI International Arbitration Centre if they currently have no facilities and BVI Finance can also assist in locating suitable locations where necessary.
- Company incorporation certificates have been sent to London by the BVI Financial Services Commission, in order to have them issued there.
- Apostilles will be available from Thursday 21st September and this will be through the normal DG’s office process.
- Industry and the Bar Association have been asked to financially support the purchase of two printers (total cost c $22000) for BVI and St Lucia to assist them in printing bundles etc.
In addition to the above we would like you to:
1) Please notify us at BVI Finance (for now please contact Gary Hales on firstname.lastname@example.org and copy in Lorna Smith on email@example.com) if you have safe, secure and dry storage facilities that could be used for court files.
2) Please provide contact details from your firm for one transactional lawyer and one litigation lawyer (again to Gary Hales, cc Lorna Smith) so that we can have a small team to consult with where appropriate and for ease and speed of communication.
With regards to civil and criminal courts a request has been made for magistrates limit to be raised from $10 000 to $50 000.
At the upcoming meeting on Thursday BVI Finance will conduct an audit to establish the following from each firm:
1) Are all your staff accounted for and safe?
2) How many staff do you have on island?
3) For those staff that have left the island, when do you expect them back?
4) Do you expect all of your staff who have left the island to return?
5) If you do not expect all of them return, what % do you expect to return?
6) Is your office operational?
7) If your office is operational, when will you be opening and functioning again?
8) If your office is operational, do you have spare “seats” available for other firms to use temporarily?
9) If your offices is not operational, how many “seats” do you need?
10) How many notaries do you have on island?
11) Is there any additional support that BVI Finance can provide for you?
BVI Finance will issue a proforma at Thursday’s meeting to gather this information. If you are not attending Thursday’s meeting (e.g. if not on island) then please provide the above information to Gary Hales. BVI Finance will reach out to all firms on island to obtain this information so that we can hold a good understanding of the state of our industry.
BVI Finance is also getting an update from the courier companies to establish their status and we will provide an update on when they will be back up to full operation and what services they can currently provide.
We have also requested through the Premier’s office that, due to the importance of the financial services industry, that these firms have priority access to diesel in order to keep their generators running and their offices open.
We are also in discussions with Robert Mathavious to see if there is an option to provide e-certificates as opposed to the current physical copies.
A key responsibility of BVI Finance has been to ensure that factual, positive messages are delivered worldwide. The current CEO has conducted many media briefings and interviews and we have been working intensely with our PR partners in London (Instinctif) ensuring that we are managing our message and providing facts and updates where appropriate. We have also seen a number of interviews by members of BVI firms that has further supported the fact that BVI financial services is still up and running effectively. We would like to thank you for your efforts over the past week or so in taking these, and other, necessary actions to support the island and demonstrate to our customers and stakeholders worldwide that despite this catastrophic hurricane, BVI is still operating and fully functional.